W6 Activity: Sickle Cell Disease in Ghana

Sickle Cell Disease is a group of inherited red blood cell disorders and it is usually because abnormal or sickle hemoglobin, called hemoglobin S is present in the red blood cells. Sufferers of SCD have to be homozygous to the recessive allele responsible of Hemoglobin S. Hemoglobin S is responsible for creating long strands of hemoglobin instead of the typical clumps found in normal red blood cells which leads to the change in shape from biconcave round disks to sickles. This leads to disruptive blood flow, as sickle-shaped red blood cells are more susceptible to sticking to vessel walls and clotting as well as having a greatly reduce oxygen transport system due to lack of room to carry it. Because of these complications, those that suffer for Sickle Cell Disease may have symptoms such as painful swelling of the hands and feet (dactylitis), fatigue or fussiness and possible jaundice of the skin and whites of the eyes. There is also suffering of sharp, throbbing pain as the disease progresses with time.

In Ghana, and various surrounding countries, some authorities have recommended prenatal diagnosis (PND) and selective abortion, which also raise a myriad of ethical dilemmas considering that in our current era, SCD has a good prognosis and fairly reasonable quality of life. Education for carrier parents and holistic treatments and coping methods are also shared although resources to do so are scarce. In Frank B. Livingstone’s article “Anthropological Implications of Sickle Cell Gene Distribution in West Africa,” he tracks the high prevalence of the gene and how it has become an advantage in the region. Livingstone states that although those who the homozygous sickle cell gene pairing rarely reproduce, there is an increase of those who are heterozygous to the cell due to migration of people around the region as well as the heterozygous sickle cell trait acting a protective adaptation against falciparum malaria as the distribution pattern of malaria were very similar to those of the Sickle Cell Trait.

  1. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sca
  2. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sca/signs
  3. http://www.afro.who.int/en/ghana/ghana-publications/1775-sickle-cell-disease.html
  4. http://blogs.la.psu.edu/anthropology/Livingstone_1958.pdf
  5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3282939/

Leave a Reply